By ERWIN CHLANDA
The Alice Springs Town Council has unanimously supported a motion by Councillor Marli Banks to ask for the NT government moratorium on fracking to remain in place indefinitely.
The motion, seconded by Cr Eli Melky, was put on Monday during the first council meeting for 2018.
This is its full text: “That the Alice Springs Town Council does not support lifting the moratorium on onshore shale gas fracking; and in doing so writes to the Chief Minister and relevant Ministers to formally convey the position.”
Councillors Jacinta Price and Glen Auricht were absent, but the seven to nil result, including the votes of Mayor Damien Ryan and Deputy Mayor Jamie de Brenni, exceeded the normal majority by two votes.
Councillor Banks (pictured helping at a stall during the 2017 Old Timers Fete) was elected in August last year.
The decision comes as the Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing is due to hand down its final report in March.
Cr Banks says “without mandating many of the key recommendations of the inquiry prior to shale gas exploration, Central Australian water and land would be exposed to significant and unnecessary risk”.
The inquiry’s preliminary report containing 120 recommendations “concluded it could not assess the scale of risk to regional water supplies from fracking because much of the data on flow and aquifer recharge rates was unavailable”.
Moving to the new aquifer at Rocky Hill – also not fully explored – would cost more than $90m.
“I am proud to see our Council taking a strong position that reflects key community concerns and attitudes to the risks that shale gas fracking presents to our region.”
Cr Banks says enquiries made by the council with the government about fracking issues in November had still not been answered.
“The motion is the first time that the ASTC has taken a formal position on onshore shale fracking. It follows council policy to call on the NT Government to protect the Alice Springs water supply now and into the future, and in so doing determine assets of strategic importance to nearby residential areas,” says Cr Banks.
“Alice Springs relies on water that comes from a non rechargeable supply. It is vital that we know where our water will come from into the future, before allowing mining companies to access millions of litres for shale gas fracking.”
The Inquiry will be in Alice Springs for public hearings on February 8. This will be the last round of hearings before the Inquiry releases its final report in mid March. A decision as to whether or not to lift the moratorium will then be made by Cabinet members of the NT government, says Cr Banks.
The Council “will be in attendance at these final hearings to put forward its strong position that the moratorium on fracking should remain in place”.
By ERWIN CHLANDA